Jonathan Chapman is Professor of Sustainable Design, Director of Design Research Initiatives and Chair of the University of Brighton's Professorial Board (Arts & Humanities).
Best known for his theory of ‘emotionally durable design’, his teaching, research and consultancy advance design and business thinking in a range of settings: from Sony, Puma, The Body Shop and Philips to the House of Lords and the United Nations.
Professor Chapman's research develops strategies for longer-lasting materials, products and user experiences — an approach he defines as, ‘emotionally durable design’. He first established this theory in his monograph, Emotionally Durable Design: Objects, Experiences & Empathy (Routledge, 2005; 2015) which has been widely adopted by educators, researchers, designers and businesses, worldwide.
He has collaborated with over 100 global businesses, helping them advance the social and ecological relevance of their products, technologies and systems; including Puma (2010–present), Sony (2012–2013), Philips (2014–present) and The Body Shop (2015–present). In 2008, The House of Lords called upon him as an ‘expert witness’ to inform their Enquiry into Waste Reduction. His report was later discussed in the House of Commons (2008/09), and led to subsequent invitations to advise the United Nations (2014/15) in relation to their Global Sustainability Goals (2015).
As Director of Design Research Initiatives, he works with multidisciplinary teams in interaction design, social innovation, product design and digital media; building research capacity, mentoring early and mid-career researchers and supporting research grant applications. As Chair of the University of Brighton Arts & Humanities Professorial Board, he leads over 30 professors in shaping research strategy and direction.
Chapman co-wrote the university’s MA Sustainable Design (2009), which he led as Course Director (2009–2015). The programme focuses on the ecological, social and commercial implications of our interactions with the designed world; bringing together candidates from design, architecture, art, computer science, psychology, sociology and business. He received an ‘Excellence Award’ (2011), under the category of ‘Most Inspirational Teacher’. He currently supervise eight PhD students, across interaction design, product design, fashion design, visual communication and sustainability.
He is a member of several juries, committees and advisory boards, and a regular reviewer for many leading academic journals (e.g. Design Issues, Design Studies), international publishers (e.g. Routledge, Berg, MIT Press) and Research Councils (e.g. AHRC, ESRC, EPSRC). His work also generates media attention, including: The New York Times, The Guardian, The Independent, CNN International and BBC Radio 4. The New Scientist described him as a ‘mover and shaker’ (2007) and a ‘new breed of sustainable design thinker’ (2009).
A research partnership with The Body Shop, investigating the way new materials and packaging shape human behaviour and experience.
A research partnership, pioneering new interaction design methodologies and tools to extend product life, enrich user experience and cut waste.
Emotionally Durable Design is an essential point of reference for researchers and designers in interaction design, product design and sustainability.
A collaboration with Puma embedding sustainable design and interaction design principles within the creative process.
Co-design and leadership of MA Sustainable Design, exploring the ecological, social and commercial implications of interactions with the made world.
Book section, arguing that the crisis of unsustainability is one of interaction, experience and behaviour, not simply of energy and production alone.
Writing commission for the Swedish Foundation for Strategic Environmental Research (MISTRA), the Textile Futures Research Group and H&M.
Invited by The House of Lords to present evidence, informing governmental policy relating to interaction design, product design and sustainability.
Delivery of a Design Master Class, and book chapter, alongside Dieter Rams, Ezio Manzini, Victor Margolin, Clive Dilnot and Per Mollerup.
Challenging overly intuitive interaction design models, in favour of approaches that offer richer and more complex user experiences.
Selected by the Design & Emotion Society as one of 20 winning papers to be developed into a book chapter.
Invited by the editors of Design Issues to join Victor Margolin, Ken Garland, Rachel Cooper and others in reconsidering Design and wellbeing.
"Jonathan Chapman analyses our patterns of consumption and waste, and successfully offers strategies and tools which can act as an alternative to our ‘throwaway society’. Emotional durability is vital to creating designs that people love and cherish, instead of simply making products to be thrown away."
(Marcel Wanders, designer and director, ‘Marcel Wanders’, The Netherlands, 2015)
"Jonathan Chapman dares to think differently about design. His inspiring insights are potentially hugely influential. By unpicking the complex emotions and psychology behind the way we relate to and feel about the objects with which we surround ourselves, he radically reimagines those relationships. Chapman suggests a more powerful, sustainable "story of stuff" – one where design delights and is cherished once again."
(Ed Gillespie, co-founder, Futerra Sustainability Communications, UK, 2015)
"Applying Jonathan Chapman's philosophy of emotional durability has helped our team to rethink not only the type of products that can be developed in the future but also the role they can play in our ever-changing world."
(Dr Jon Mason, Design researcher, Philips, The Netherlands, 2015)
"Emotionally Durable Design offers a profoundly original view on sustainability by shifting our focus from the durability of products to the durability of consumer-product relationships. With six opportunities to foster empathetic bonds between users and their products, Jonathan Chapman shares his uplifting vision on durability that puts the mystery and wonder back into design, revealing how sustainable design can be a central pioneer of positive social change."
(Pieter Desmet, Professor, Design for Experience, Delft University, The Netherlands, 2014)
"While a coterie of theorists try to convince us that our objects are the albatross around our neck to blame for the environmental malaise, and must be rejected, Chapman makes the compelling argument that more, not less connection is needed. His passionate and accessible treatise explains how, by combining material and emotional intelligence, we can achieve the responsible and rewarding cycles we need in order to survive."
(Tim Parsons, Associate Professor, Designed Objects, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, USA, 2014)
"Chapman’s research has advanced our thinking on sustainable design and made a considerable contribution to our quest for enhanced resource efficiency, and increased product and brand value. His lectures, master-classes, workshops and training films have helped to move our sustainability story forward by shaping the attitude and approach of our designers and management teams."
(Dr. Reiner Hengstmann, PUMA’s Global Director, 15 November 2013)
In the developed world, we live in a throw-away society with a global production system that’s riddled with inefficiency and waste. But what if a product developed as it aged, improved over time? Would we throw it away so readily then? According to Professor Chapman of the University of Brighton, UK: “The idea is to use product and brand as talking points; the product is a conversation piece that creates a lasting connection between the business and its customers and, ultimately, increase loyalty to the brand and drives sales.”
(Flemich Webb, 'Designing for a Sustainable Future', Making It, United Nations Industrial Development Organization, 30th August, 2013)
(Emily Nicoll, General Manager: Sustainability, Sony Europe, 15 November, 2013)
In 2005 a book was published called Emotionally Durable Design: Objects, Experiences and Empathy. It was a call to arms for professionals, students and academic creatives to think about designing things we would cherish and keep, rather than throw away. "It's actually very easy to design and manufacture a toaster that will last 20 years; that can be done. What's not so easy is to design and manufacture a toaster that someone will want to keep for 20 years, because as people ... we haven't been trained to do that," he told the Today programme's Evan Davis. Professor Chapman stressed the importance to "de-materialise and to use less, whilst also considering ways in which we build greater resilience into the relationships between people and their possessions".
(Evan Davis, 'What is Emotionally Durable Design?', The Today Programme, BBC Radio 4, 9th February, 2013)
"Say you have a product that lasts on average 12 months," says Jonathan Chapman, Professor of Sustainable Design at the University of Brighton, who developed the emotionally durable design concept. "If you can extend that use-career to 18 months through emotionally durable design, you have bought about a 50% reduction in waste consumption in the majority of materials, energy and systems associated with that product." Chapman advises a number of global businesses on how they can make their products and services more sustainable – environmentally, socially and financially.
(Flemich Webb, 'Time for new business models based on durable design?', Guardian Sustainable Business, 18th January, 2013)
The phrase 'Emotionally Durable Design', borrowed from Professor Jonathan Chapman, helped to explain the irrational associations carried by materials, as in the example of aeroplane construction after 1920, when laminated timber was superseded by metal more as a result of ideology than necessity. There was a contemporary significance to this, because emotional durability can achieve sustainability when people want to hang on to things rather than replace them.
(Tanya Harrod, 'Visionary Rather than Practical: Sustainability and Material Efficiency in Art, Craft and Design', The Artworkers' Guild, proceedings: No. 27, January, 2013 )
Emotionally Durable Design is an articulate case for the need for objects and buildings with strong narratives that can help forge bonds with users through their inherent storytelling qualities.
(Zoë Ryan, Curator of Architecture and Design and Chair of the Department of Architecture and Design at the Art Institute of Chicago, 2012)
The environment at the University of Brighton seems like one of ideas; well, this is what Puma’s innovation Group is about; its about bringing new ideas to the market, through new and novel thinking to change the way that Puma’s doing business, through the lens of sustainability. Being here at the University of Brighton will be a phenomenal partnership, in terms of sharing new ideas, and moving the never-ending effort of sustainability forward. I think the idea of innovating and being able to work with your hands is something that doesn’t quite exist in a lot of the corporate environments, and I have been speaking with Dr Chapman about trying to create that type of environment within our Innovation Team – whether its in our Boston facility, or within our Headquarters in Germany.
(Louis Joseph: Global Director of Strategy & Innovation, Puma, 2011)
Among the student community, consciousness of ecological issues is becoming increasingly prominent, says Dr Jonathan Chapman, course leader on Brighton University's MA in Sustainable Design. Indeed, product design used to be primarily concerned with ergonomics, performance and styling. Today, it's all those things, but with sustainability now a key ingredient, considered alongside those more established design considerations.
(Sarah Lonsdale, ‘Sustainable design ideas from young designers’, The Daily Telegraph, 12th July 2011, UK)
The lecture Dr Chapman gave to our design teams at PUMA was absolutely spot-on; exactly what was needed to get them engaged with sustainable design, and motivated to become part of the solution.
(Bernd Kellar, Global Director of Design, PUMA, Herzogenaurach, Germany, 2010)
Designer and teacher Jonathan Chapman also looks to the future in, Emotionally Durable Design: Objects, Experiences & Empathy (Earthscan, 2005), a call for professionals and students alike to prioritise the relationships between design and its users, as a way of developing more sustainable attitudes to, and in, design things.
(Clark, H. & Brody, D., Design Studies: A Reader, Berg, New York, US, 2009, p531)
Drawing on the work of authors such as Thackara and Chapman, it is demonstrated that diversity in taste can be accommodated and welcomed within this relatively new and developing area of [sustainable] design ... Chapman has suggested that users should be ‘designed into narratives as co-producers and not simply as inert, passive witnesses’ (2005). He speaks of the need for design to overcome its preoccupation with what he terms ‘box-fresh’ experiences and product novelty in order to develop a material culture where there is a continuous narrative of progressive change and meaningful, mutual growth.
(Professor Stuart Walker, 'After Taste – The Power and Prejudice of Product Appearance', The Design Journal, vol 12, Issue 1, Berg, 2009)
Most of us accept the need for a more sustainable way to live, by reducing carbon emissions, developing renewable technology and increasing energy efficiency. But are these efforts to save the planet enough? We asked some movers and shakers for their recommendations. Here is what they said: "Disconnect yourself from the cyclical system of 'desire and disappointment' that fosters unhappiness and frustration with the products you already have, and creates tension between 'actual' and 'desired' states of being that, over time, manifest as a continual dissatisfaction with the now (Dr Chapman, University of Brighton, UK).
('How to do your bit for the planet', New Scientist, 15th October, 2008)
Somewhere during the last 100 years, we learned to find refuge outside the species, in the silent embrace of manufactured objects,” Jonathan Chapman, a young product designer and theorist at the University of Brighton, writes in his book Emotionally Durable Design. “The mobile phone occupies a kind of glossy, scratch-free world ... as soon you purchase it, you can only watch it migrating further away from what it is you want — a glossy, scratch-free object.” You might leave the plastic film over the display for a few days, just so you can take it off later and “give yourself a second honeymoon with the phone,” he says. But ultimately everything that first attracted you to it only deteriorates. You start looking at it differently. “It’s made of some kind of sparkle-finished polymer and it’s got some decent curves on it, but so what? The intimacy comes more from the fact that, within that hand-held piece of plastic, exists your whole world” — your friends’ phone numbers, your digital pictures, your music — and that stuff can be easily transferred to a new one. So you “fall out of love” with the phone, Chapman says. There is no heaven for cellphones. Wherever they go, it seems that something, somewhere, to some extent always ends up being damaged or depleted. The only heaven I came across was what Chapman described. It is an image in our heads — not of a place where we can send a used phone but one where we imagine each device when it’s brand-new, right before we first get our hands on it. That illusion of perfection, no matter how many times we see it spoiled, will always lure us into buying the next new phone and sending the last one careering on its way.
(Jon Mooallem, 'The Afterlife of Cellphones', The New York Times, 13 January, 2008)
In his book, Emotionally Durable Design, Jonathan Chapman explains appropriateness as a function of a product's emotional presence, evolution and growth. He says that it is not enough for a product to provoke an emotional response within the user on one occasion; it must do this repeatedly. In effect, a relationship with an object must be developed over an extended period of time.
(Fletcher, K., Sustainable Fashion & Textiles: Design Journeys, Earthscan, London, UK, p168)
When you look at the scientific basis and reduce the energy footprint during production but you also look at the psychological and emotional factors during use, says Chapman. When you start to integrate like that, that's when you start to achieve sustainable design.
(Charlie Devereux, ‘Disposing of our throwaway culture’, CNN International, October 21, 2007)
Sustainable design has to pollute and infect its way into the mainstream, says Jonathan Chapman, [and] for it to take on this viral quality, it needs to open up and be unpacked.
(Pamela Buxton, ‘Green Team’, Design Week, Vol 22, No 37, 13 September, 2007, pp 13-15)
We don't throw things away because they are broken - it's usually because we have fallen out of love with them', says Jonathan Chapman, a senior lecturer in design at the University of Brighton, who is trying to promote what he calls 'emotionally durable' design as a way of reducing the generation of toxic waste. Chapman believes that, without a big shift in our attitude to the things we live with, the UK will soon catch up. 'At the beginning of a relationship with a product, we consume it rampantly', he says. 'Then consumption becomes routine, and then we stop thinking about it altogether and start noticing newer models. Often the relationship ends because the product is not doing something we want it to do, or it has started doing something we didn't think it would do, but not because it doesn't work. Unless we return to more sustainable relationships with these possessions we are going to have a really huge problem'.
(Lois Rogers, 'Consumer Adultery - the new British vice', New Statesman, 05 February, 2007)
Chapman, a senior lecturer from the University of Brighton, UK, is one of a new breed of sustainable designers. Like many of us, they are concerned about the huge waste associated with our consumer culture, and the damage this does to the environment... to understand why we have become so profligate, Chapman believes we should look to the underlying motivations of consumers... following Chapman's notion of emotionally durable design, there is likely to be a move away from mass-production and towards tailor-made articles and products designed and manufactured with greater craftsmanship.
(Ed Douglas, 'Designed to Last', New Scientist, January 6, 2007, pp31-35)
In a BBC Radio 4 show entitled 'Possessions and Limitations' a reading from Jonathan Chapman's book, Emotionally Durable Design was made; asserting Chapman's proposition that 'the material you possess signifies the destiny you chase'. This 30-minute feature argued that 'possessions are our limitations', and also included extracts and readings from other works by Oscar Wilde, Mahatma Gandhi and Persian poet Rumi. 'In his book Emotionally Durable Design, Jonathan Chapman explores the possibility that human interaction can be reduced to two basic strands; having and being'.
(Tom Robinson, 'Something Understood: Possessions and Limitations', BBC Radio 4, January 28, 2007)
Many cherished products survive in kitchens, living rooms and wardrobes even when they are long past their best. This is quite a challenge for designers, as Jonathan Chapman stresses in his book Emotionally Durable Design, only when the relationship between user and product is as durable as the object itself can the wheelie bin be avoided.
(Will Anderson, 'The Green House', The Independent, July 26, 2006)